The purpose of this document is to establish the truth. The authors have neither desire nor motive to promulgate error. We both feel strongly that if we do so it will cost us our souls. We also recognize that we could be wrong on any issue, and that there is a very serious obligation on teachers to be sure that what they are teaching is the truth (James 3:1f).
Many may wonder why we would address this issue at all, since the predominant view of most Christians is that Matthew, Mark, Luke and John (MML&J) are New Testament books. It was only after we learned that this issue was causing division in some churches that we decided to address it in a formal document. While it might seem strange to some that this is an issue, we can see several issues in the New Testament that we would probably conclude to be as strange today. For example, that there is no resurrection from the dead (1 Cor. 15:12), that Jesus did not come in the flesh (1 John 4:3), or that circumcision is binding (Acts 15). There is no requirement that a doctrine be reasonable for it to cause faithful Christians to be swept away by it and therefore for it to cause division and suffering.
In this document, we will try to present fairly the arguments that are made on behalf of MML&J being part of the Old Testament (OT). We will attempt to analyze these arguments objectively in light of all that the Bible teaches. In order to assure the reader that some Christians hold specific beliefs, we will draw upon quotes taken from several different sources. The main source will be an email discussion list called “nicelist.” Most of these quotes will be found in a request list offered at the end of this document. We recognize the problem in quoting this as an anonymous source. First, this list does not have an archive for the reader to check and verify. Those who post to this list can either personally save it or discard the posts, so unless they personally saved it, it will be lost. However, we have no interest in setting up straw men to argue with and wasting our time in writing this document just to chase after non-existent arguments.
A second problem is in not identifying the individual who posted the thought. We do this because we have no interest in making this a personal matter. In order to give some assurance that we are not mis-quoting or taking quotes out of context, we will give the general source with date and time of quote. It is not our intent to hurt or embarrass anyone. The purpose of the quotes is merely to demonstrate that we are not creating a bogus argument or position. We pledge to do our best to be fair and not to take quotes out of context so that they present the opposing viewpoint in a bad light, and we will make every attempt to address the strongest arguments that we know exist supportive of MML&J being OT books.
All should recognize that those who are quoted may no longer continue to hold the view they once expressed. This, along with the difficulty in getting permission from each individual involved, is another reason for anonymity. In the process of the authors’ study and continuous debate and discussions, we have learned much. There are many arguments that we would not express in the same way that we originally did. There are some arguments that we would abandon completely in defending our position. Thus, we want to impress on the readers that even the person quoted may no longer hold the position expressed. Our intent is to identify the arguments, not the persons. It is impossible for us to tell what position any given person holds at this very minute. Focussing on the “who” of a position can be counterproductive, and it can lead to a cult of personalities. It is important that we focus on learning the truth as taught in God’s word, and then error can be refuted no matter who it is that is teaching it.
One of the most convincing arguments in favor of MML&J being part of the New Testament is that they were written decades after the cross. It was impossible for them to be nailed to the cross if, in fact, they did not even exist when Jesus died. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were inspired by the Holy Spirit to write the gospels for Christians to read. We place this argument in the preface because, for the most part, we will be responding to the arguments made for MML&J being Old Testament books, and so this argument would not arise directly.
Let it also be noted that some of those we quote will grant that MML&J are indeed NT books, but books that contain no binding commands stated before the cross that can be applied to Christians later. Others that we quote will contend that these are indeed OT books. Thus, we will have a stronger argument against the position of one group than another at times. Some of our arguments will be irrelevant to one group but devastating to the position held by the other group. Both groups do not hold to their conclusions with the exact same arguments. We will have to shift gears to answer one side and go into another gear to answer the other group. So, please keep in mind the two positions, the common ground they hold between each other, as well as the differences.
We would like to say, also, that most Christians can avoid the necessity for reading this book altogether just by reading MML&J. Ask yourself – could this just be OT teaching that is restricted to the Jews living at Jesus’ time that would be nailed to the cross in a matter of a few months? We urge you to start in the gospel of John, and remember that if just one doctrine taught applies to us today, then this book could not have been nailed to the cross with Christ (given that this was even possible). To those who might still struggle with this, we offer the discussion given in this document.